Remembering Why We Fight

Despite some impressive victories in our war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001, the fast pace of events seems to have swept them by in a blur, with much of their significance lost in the chaos of a global offensive.

As we pass the second anniversary of the attacks, it’s important to reflect on what has been accomplished since 3,000 American civilians were forever silenced and our collective sense of safety and invincibility was shattered.

To believe President Bush’s critics, little has been done in the last 24 months to protect our way of life. But look at the 22-page progress report that the White House released last week and you’ll see how exaggerated the criticisms have become. Consider these major events:

  • We have brought down the repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan, killed or routed its leadership, and destroyed the terrorist training camps where Osama bin Laden plotted the Sept. 11 attacks. A free and moderate government, allied with the United States, has been installed.
  • The United States and our allies have pursued once-hidden terrorist networks on a vast global scale. More than 3,000 suspected Al Qaeda agents and supporters have been caught and imprisoned in more than 90 countries.
  • We have destroyed Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime and a free, new Iraqi governing council is emerging to take over Iraq’s operations and infrastructure.
  • We have destroyed terrorist cells here at home, charged more than 260 people with terrorist-related crimes, and detained, convicted or deported hundreds of non-citizens who were in the United States illegally.

Meanwhile, I believe the United Nations will approve a resolution to provide a multinational force under U.S. command to help strengthen peacekeeping operations in Iraq. That will further free up our soldiers to pursue and kill the enemy, and help stabilize the country.

Recent news reports note that U.S. military forces “have become a less visible presence in the Iraqi capital.” The increased deployment of Iraqis to police Baghdad and other key cities is also freeing up U.S. soldiers to go after terrorist forces.

Other developments give us reasons to be more optimistic about Iraq’s immediate future (and the likelihood that some U.S. forces will be coming home sooner).

At Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s urging, the timetable to train a new Iraqi army to take over the defense of their country has been stepped up.

Though you’d never know it from the nightly news broadcasts here, more than 70,000 Iraqi men have signed up for police, civil defense and military duties to restore order and law enforcement in their country.

Pointing to several Iraqis who were pulling guard duty in Baghdad’s Karrada shopping district, Pfc. George Lopez of Salt Lake City told a reporter, “They’re starting to do more of their job, so our job has become less and less.”

Lawmakers recently traveled to Iraq to find Iraqi children back in school; a plethora of free, independent newspapers on the streets; shops and businesses opened; and markets filled with shoppers. Life, it seems, has begun to stabilize somewhat in Iraq, but this hardly means that there will not be difficult days ahead in Iraq. Thugs and terrorists still roam the region and are flooding in from surrounding areas, the infrastructure still needs work, and, most important, American soldiers are still dying.

It does mean, however, that progress is being made in our war on terrorism — proof that the hunger for freedom over tyranny still remains the strongest force in the world. And, in the end, freedom will win.